Over the last couple of weeks there have been signals that the overall aims for the 2025 Future Homes Standard could end up being less radical than previously imagined.

I have had a few conversations over the last fortnight, some with valuable connections to the right places, to indicate that despite predictions that the Government will go with a new minimum U-Value of 0.8, they may be thinking about rolling back on those plans.

Big or small?

For quite a while now the general thinking is that as part of the Future Homes Standard the Government was going to reduce the minimum U-Value from 1.4 to 0.8W/m²K. In response to that, a number of systems companies, such as Liniar, Eurocell’s Modus and Deceuninck, have rushed to produce new window and door systems that would meet that new 0.8 level well in advance of 2025 changes.

This has been a great demonstration of the sector’s ability to put it’s money where it’s mouth is a prove to Government and the public that we are capable of implementing change and new products pretty swiftly and that what we do can achieve the ambitious targets the Government set itself to reach net zero by 2050.

It costs a lot of time, effort and of course money to produce new window and door systems like this. They don’t appear overnight and a lot of energy and treasure is expended to bring these things to market. More no doubt are in the works and won’t be far off coming to the market.

But it may seem that there wasn’t such a pressing reason to rush. The mood music appears to be changing. From a position where 0.8W/m²K seemed pretty nailed on, the commentary now seems to be shifting towards 1.2W/m²K. From what I can gleam around what is being said, the Government isn’t overly keen on triple glazing having to become the new standard, with the obvious reason being the cost implications on the public. Remember that there is a General Election coming up and the idea of Government regulations being the reason another cost going up isn’t going to be popular at the ballot box.

The consultation on the FHS is set to open shortly and the Government will be taking on board opinions and feedback from a number of areas, but it now appears to be a toss up between 0.8 and 1.2, with perhaps the latter looking the slight favourite at this point.

Risking a missed chance

I think there are some hints from systems companies that they know that the ground is already shifting beneath them. In this recent article from Deceuninck, this passage creates some wiggle room:

Under the current proposals it’s widely expected that this will introduce a new notional value for new build of 0.8 W/m2K with a limiting value of 1.2W/m2K – standards Deceuninck has said it is confident its customers will be able to meet.

It was the first bit of PR I remember seeing 1.2 and 0.8 mentioned together and certainly throwing the range of potential U-Value limits wider open. Certainly the new Deceuninck, Eurocell and Liniar systems would be able to meet 1.2W/m2K as they already get to 0.8W/m2K with the use of triple glazing.

The question is whether they are going to specify 0.8W/m2K for new-build homes and 1.2W/m2K for retro-fit homes. Or whether everything will be 1.2W/m2K and homebuilders will be forced to find further U-Value reductions from other measures away from windows.

Remember there is politics at play here. Glass makers and spacer bar producers will certainly prefer and harder 0.8W/m2K outcome. The real-world effects of that would mean a larger shift to triple glazing, which means more glass and more spacer bar sold. But on the other hand, with an election coming up, the idea of having to pass on more costs to retro-fit clients and making new homes more expensive by forcing triple glazing onto them is going to be unpopular, no matter how strong the environmental argument. You won’t have failed to notice how far behind the Tories are behind in the polls right now.

Politics aside though, it does appear that this is going to be a missed opportunity. Our industry was literally in the middle of proving that we could actually get to 0.8W/m2K, both in PVCu and aluminium systems. It was going to be a chance to show the Government and the public that we could be better than our reputation suggests. But rather than going for something a bit more radical and keeping to 2050 goals, the Government may now decide to play it safe and lower the minimum U-Value by just 0.2W/m2K. A level which can be achieved with the existing technology and not having to rush to triple glazing.

With another important consultation about to begin, input from our sector has perhaps never been so important.

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